Anything with asparagus will always make your plate more interesting. Flesh like lobster Dublin Bay prawns laced in fragrant chilli; shining, velvety seafood stocks or even moist, fluffy white fish to name but a few. Crunchy asparagus is all about the marriage of textures, knowing how to combine translucent sauces, soft textures that ooze happily of fresh, vibrant green spears of heavenliness.
It is no secret that without butter, crispy, smoked bacon and a creamy dollop of hollandaise sauce your asparagus would feel lonely but crisp, bright-green asparagus should just taste crisp and green, in any dish. For me the real magic happens when the flavour of this vegetable has been cooked with something unexpected, something far beyond tradition.
The best asparagus I have encountered was here, going picking in Spain by the hillside. I know a little excessive just for asparagus but if you tried them, you would have drifted towards the clouds and floated away to heaven. So, from that day my love for cooking asparagus required respect and to be cooked with equally wonderful ingredients and nothing less.
Having a weakness for shellfish and Thai food, I wanted to try out a Laksa but with hake, Dublin Bay Prawns and white Mantis shrimp. I just knew the stock flavour was going to be something of a treat. Dublin Bay prawns and Mantis shrimp are delicate but very special ingredients. Once cooked their flesh resembles that of lobsters and dissolves on your tongue as it tantalizes your senses.
Once cooked the stock’s depth of flavour was transformed entirely on the prawns. The chilli and ginger created warmth and heat with a refreshing zing with every spoonful, which created an addictive pleasure for the senses.
150-200 grams hake or haddock fillet, cut into thick strips
8 baby Dublin Bay prawns (the smaller they are the sweeter they taste)
4-6 White Mantis shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oriental spice
1 large red chilli, minced/puréed/finely chopped
1 tablespoon runny honey
400 ml water
330-350 ml coconut water (perfect for the summer months, if you are in need of a lighter laksa)
1 vegetable stock cube
1/2 fresh lime juice
100-150 grams butternut squash, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
3 medium sized cloves of garlic, minced/puréed/finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced/puréed/finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 dried kaffir lime or curry leaves
Generous bunch of fresh coriander, roughly torn (extra for garnishing)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
150 grams rice noodles
Half a bunch of fresh asparagus, (6 stalks) cut into bite-size pieces
Sea Salt (Maldon) for seasoning
In a large bowl, hand whisk the olive oil, honey, red chilli and oriental spice together until smooth and well combined. Gently coat the fish and shellfish in the dressing and set aside to marinade.
Next, put the water onto boil and add the stock cube. Once the stock cube has absorbed into the boiling water add in the grated butternut squash and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Meanwhile, in a food processor add the peeled garlic, ginger, the chilli, turmeric, dried lime leaves, coriander, lime juice, sesame oil, soy and fish sauce, blitz into a paste, then spoon into the simmering stock. Once the paste has been added, add the desiccated coconut and coconut water.
Simmer for a further 2 minutes and add in the marinated fish and shellfish along with the noodles and increase the heat to a medium-high.
As soon as it boils, taste and season with sea salt if necessary, add the trimmed asparagus and turn off the heat. Serve with coriander and enjoy a refreshing summer soup with a subtle colourful kick.